Tuesday, April 15, 2008

"The African Cook Book - Menus from the Tree Houses Restaurant of the Pavilion of Africa, New York World's Fair 1964-65" - Chicken Moamba

Date I made this recipe: April 13, 2008

The African Cook Book – Menus from the Tree Houses Restaurant of the Pavilion of Africa, New York World’s Fair 1964-1965
Published by: Harvest House
© 1964
Recipe: Chicken Moamba – p. 28

What are the odds that at various points in time in the years 1964 and 1965, both my husband and I, as well as my friend, Susan, who introduced us and her husband, Bob, all attended the New York World’s Fair? It’s one of the things we still chuckle about and took it as a sign that we were all meant to be together both in marriage and in friendship.

My parents and I, as well as my parents and my aunt and uncle went to the fair, no doubt timed with a visit to see my grandmother who lived in New Jersey. My husband’s mom is from Queens and so he, too, went to visit the grandparents and the fair, and Susan and Bob grew up in New Jersey, practically on the doorstep of the event. Although the fair didn’t fare well in terms of finances (pardon the pun), all of us cherish the family photos we have in front of the Unisphere, the giant globe marking the spot where the fair took place. It still “resides” in Queens and is always my beacon signaling an imminent arrival at La Guardia.

I don’t remember much about the World’s Fair since I was only 6 at the time, maybe 7 depending on what the year, but a few memories remain: It’s A Small World – the exhibit that ultimately became a feature attraction at Disney Land and later Disney World (for years, relatives sent me the dolls from various countries featured in the exhibit), the Carousel of Progress and Michelangelo’s famous sculpture, The Pieta…and one more important thing: The Rule of Rose Marie.

The Rule of Rose Marie was developed by my mom who was scared to death to bring her young daughter through the subway system, not because of bad people lurking nearby ready to snatch me away, but because it was so crowded and she was afraid we’d get separated. If that happened, her instructions were to go to the next stop, get off and wait. Lucky for us, I didn’t have to do that but each time I rode the subway after that, be it with my parents or with friends, the rule applied.

Later on the rule was expanded to airports, back in the day when the whole damned family could go down to meet a person at the gate. (I miss those days) The rule was the same with a slight variation: if you are being met and picked up by someone, wait at the gate for that person to come and get you. Unfortunately, my Uncle Jack didn’t know the Rule of Rose Marie and so many years ago after I flew into Dulles in D.C., he was waiting for me up by baggage while I was foot-tapping down at the gate. We eventually hooked up by my mother was surprised that he didn’t think to go down to the gate to look for me. But hey, it isn’t his fault he was absent the day my mom went over The Rule!

When it comes to cooking and this blog, I follow the rules of the recipe, tempted as I may be to change a few things here and there. This recipe was pretty easy and the only thing I changed was the quantity since half the recipe still yielded a lot of food. This recipe comes from the country of Gabon, in west Africa, most noted for being the home of Dr. Albert Schweitzer. Dr. Schweitzer won The Noble Peace Prize in 1952. (I didn’t know this until I read it in the cook book and this is why I collect them--you get to learn about food and history all at the same time whilst enjoying the fruits of your labor!).

Chicen Moamba – serves 8
½ cup yellow onions
2 Tbs. peanut oil
2-2 ½ pound chickens (fryers) (I used boneless chicken breasts)
12 oz. peanut butter
4 medium sweet potatoes
1 Tbs. salt
½ tsp black pepper
2 pounds raw spinach
1 pound white rice
8 hard-cooked eggs

Coarsely chop the onions and saute in the peanut oil until soft but not brown. Add the chicken (the recipe says to cut in half and in half again—I cut the chicken breasts into cubes), cover tightly and simmer for 15 minutes. Blend the peanut butter with one quart of water, pour over the chicken when smooth and cook for 10 minutes.

Season the medium sweet potatoes that you have peeled and cut in half (I cut mine in cubes) with the salt and pepper and add to the chicken. Simmer for 15-20 minutes or until both are done.

Meanwhile, cook the spinach separately only until the spinach breaks down and is still very green. Also cook the rice separately using package directions. Finally, simmer the eggs gently until hard cooked and then peel.

When ready to serve, pour the chicken mixture over the rice then place one peeled egg and a serving of spinach on the side. If desired, you can also sprinkle chopped peanuts over the chicken mixture and serve with side dishes of chopped avocado, pilli-pilli sauce (an African hot sauce made with tomato sauce, garlic powder and crushed red pepper) and shredded coconut.

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